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Ever thought you could make an entire film about a geese sanctuary? If not, you’re going to be in for a surprise. Let’s take a look together at the 1965 Disney film, Those Calloways.
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
The film opens up to a small Vermont town called Swiftwater. It’s your typical small town and on this particular day, the geese are flying overhead…an event which all of the townspeople look forward to every year. While some of the townspeople are interested in shooting the geese, the majority of the townspeople wants the geese to be left alone.
One such person is a man named Cam Calloway, played by Brian Keith.
He has always loved the geese and hated how people could just shoot the geese. His dream is to create a sort of geese sanctuary where the geese can come down for a rest as they fly over the town and where they can be safe from hunters. The only available area where he can make the sanctuary is some unwanted marshland near a lake. The problem is it costs $1100.
This sanctuary aspiration (as well as the fact that he has a bit of a drinking problem) causes conflict between him and his wife, Lydia “Liddy” Calloway, played by Vera Miles.
Despite that, the Calloways seem to be an overall loving married couple and manage to patch up their problems quicker than others. They also have a
teenage adult son named Bucky, played by Brandon deWilde,
as well as a pet dog, pet crow, and pet bear.
They live near the forest in a typical log cabin. Cam’s occupation is trapping. He lays traps for ermines and other forest animals and sells their furs. I find this somewhat hypocritical. He’s upset about people shooting the geese. But, he doesn’t mind killing other animals. On top of that, he doesn’t mind killing those animals and using the money to buy the marshland to save the geese.
Nevertheless, Cam still intends to go fur trapping and even intends to take his son Bucky with him this year. They go out to do a preliminary scouting of the area they’re going to trap: an area of the forest that nobody’s ever trapped before because the local natives say the place is haunted with evil spirits. Cam and Bucky disregard this legend and end up having an accident resulting in Cam breaking his leg.
Bucky rushes to town to get help from the townspeople. They manage to get Cam back home and get the doctor to look at Cam’s leg. Since Cam has to rest his leg now, it’s up to Bucky to go and do the fur trapping himself this year.
Let me take a minute to talk about the townspeople whom we see a lot of. They’re your typical small town-type townspeople including a group of friendly old-timers. If you’re a fan of old films/TV shows, you can recognize a few familiar faces. The most prevalent old-timer is a man named Alf Simes, played by 3-time Academy Award winner, Walter Brennan.
The other old-timers include a hard of hearing Ed Parker, played by Disney legend Ed Wynn,
a man named Charley Evans, played by Paul Hartman,
a serious landlord named Doane Shattuck, played by Parley Baer,
and even the doctor, played by Frank Ferguson, is better known as Mr. Foley from The Andy Griffith Show.
Back to the main plot: after a successful hunting season, Bucky returns home with a good number of furs to sell in the market after the Christmas holidays. Sadly, the fur market somewhat crashes, so instead of receiving $1800 for the furs as they thought they were gonna get, the Calloways only received $450.
This upsets Cam especially because now he can’t purchase the marshland fully. However, there are two things that he can do: he can give the money to Doane Shattuck, his landlord, to whom he owes money. Or he can use the money as a down payment on the marshland. Unfortunately, he does the latter which results in his wife getting upset with him, and deservedly so.
This reminds me of Penny Chenery’s decision in Secretariat when she has a chance to pay off a debt, but refuses to do so and would rather put her dreams and goals before her family and reality.
But like Penny, Cam tries to find another way to pay off his debts and offers the marshland that he’s put a down payment on to Doane. But since the marshland is not a piece of prime real estate, Doane refuses the deal.
This results in the Calloways being evicted from their home and having to build a new log cabin on the marshland. Fortunately, the townspeople come to help and the cabin is built in no time.
During this time, a newcomer to the town, Dell Fraser, played by Philip Abbott comes into contact with Cam. He expresses interest in the geese and admire’s Cam’s sanctuary idea. He even informs Cam that his boss would be willing to invest money in Cam’s sanctuary so that it can be set up in no time.
Cam, appreciative of the offer, agrees to this. This turns out to be a bad move as Dell Fraser and his boss’s intentions are to win Cam’s trust and shoot all the geese when they land in Cam’s sanctuary. When Cam finds out about the scheme, he gets angry at Dell Fraser and sets fire to the corn that he’s planted to attract the geese.
Sadly, this doesn’t prevent Dell Fraser and his boss from shooting the geese as they fly over the lake near the marshland. When Cam sees this, he tries to stop them forcibly and in the scuffle, accidentally gets shot. Cam is unconscious as the townspeople start to pray for him.
The movie ends with Cam regaining consciousness, the geese stopping down in Cam’s sanctuary, and the townspeople unanimously signing a petition protecting Cam’s sanctuary from the likes of Dell Fraser and his boss.
Gosh…this is quite a hard film to say what I think about it. The film is your typical old-fashioned homely film about a family living in a small town near the wilderness. The biggest problems that I have with this film are the length and the pacing. The film is over 2 hours long and the first half of the movie just seems to drag! The overall film itself also doesn’t seem to go at a steady balanced pace.
There are also many other subplots that take place including a complicated love story between Bucky and the a girl from town, Birdie, played by Linda Evans,
a couple of fistfights between Bucky and a local bully, Whit Turner, played by Tom Skerritt,
a couple of Christmas scenes including Cam and Bucky giving a gift to Liddy,
and two short song sequences written by the Sherman Brothers.
I wouldn’t call this a good movie, but if you’re a fan of old-fashioned movies that take place in rural area, maybe you can give this one a shot.
(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)
So, the final score for this film is 22/35 = 62.86% (D-) !
The next review will be posted on March 23rd.